Amtrak train derails in Arizona after heavy rainAugust 9, 1997
Web posted at: 7:56 p.m. EDT (2356 GMT)
KINGMAN, Arizona (CNN) -- An Amtrak train hurtling at 90 mph through the Arizona desert derailed Saturday as it traveled over a flood-damaged bridge. About 100 people were injured, only one seriously.
Heavy overnight rain apparently scoured away the ground around supports for the trestle, causing it to collapse under the weight of the Chicago-bound Southwest Chief shortly before dawn. The low trestle bridge went over a wash -- flood-prone low ground that is normally dry
much of the time, said Jim Sabourin, a spokesman for Burlington
Because of the heavy rain, the railroad had sent an inspector along the track in a specially rigged truck, Sabourin said. The inspector saw no problems when he passed over the trestle about 2 1/2 hours before the derailment, he said. A team from the National Transportation Safety Board was to make an official determination of the cause of the accident.
Passengers and their suitcases, newspapers and clothes were flung around inside the train compartment as the train thumped to a halt in a desolate desert area 13 miles northeast of Kingman.
"I felt like I was in a car going off a cliff," passenger Doug Fischer told CNN.
One person suffered a broken back, and was taken by helicopter to a Flagstaff hospital for treatment. The other passengers were "walking wounded," and mostly in good spirits after the accident, according to Carla Malvick of Kingman Regional Medical Center.
"What we're seeing is primarily cuts, bruises and perhaps a broken bone or so," Malvick said.
The crash site was only accessible by four-wheel drive vehicles, because of the recent rains and flooding. Ten school buses shuttled passengers and crew from a nearby road to the hospital for treatment.
The first engine broke free from the rest of the train after apparently causing the small bridge to buckle, and continued on its own for several hundred yards. The other cars remained upright after spilling off the tracks.
The train of four locomotives and seven baggage and nine passengers cars had left Los Angeles on Friday evening. Kingman is in the northwest corner of Arizona, about 180 miles north of Phoenix.
More than 100 trains pass over that stretch of tracks daily, according to an Amtrak official.
The overnight storms in and around Kingman were severe enough to cause flash flooding on some of the area's roads. Two stranded motorists had been rescued by helicopter from a flooded wash near the city of 12,000 on Friday.
On October 9, 1995, an Amtrak train hit a section of vandalized track and toppled 30 feet from a trestle in the desert 55 miles southwest of Phoenix. A 41-year-old sleeping car attendant was killed and 78 other people were injured.
The most recent Amtrak derailment was January 13, when a train en route to Seattle from Chicago derailed in Wyoming, injuring eight passengers.
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